YET ANOTHER BILL….The Bush administration and congressional Republicans have finally agreed on a new highway bill. As usual, though, it contains a few little surprises. For example:

A planned amendment to the six-year highway and transit bill to be considered by the House of Representatives on Wednesday would permit companies to schedule their drivers over a 16-hour period each day, adding two unpaid hours to the 14 hours now paid. Maximum driving time would remain at 11 hours.

Sweet. Two additional unpaid hours each day. The folks at Wal-Mart must be ecstatic.

The Republican leadership also wants to start putting toll booths on interstate highways:

In a sign of the growing political support for tolls, the House on Wednesday rejected a measure that would have limited tolls to newly constructed lanes and required the charges be lifted once the new lanes were paid for. State highway officials were among those opposing any effort to weaken the bill’s toll provisions.

….The federal gasoline tax, the major source of funding for highways, has not been raised in more than a decade, and Bush opposes any increase.

Congestion pricing tolls in urban areas is an interesting experiment, and I wouldn’t mind a few pilot projects along these lines ? although the technology is probably still too immature to make this work in most American cities. But aside from that I just don’t understand the appeal of tolls. I’d much rather pay a higher gasoline tax at the pump than be forced to stop at tollbooths every few miles. Sure, tolls are a little more precisely targeted at people who use the roads more, but not by much. Is it really worth the hassle? It sure doesn’t seem like it to me.